Farmed or Wild Seafood?

We only eat wild-caught seafood – fish, shrimp, and scallops, to name a few. Up until last year, I wasn’t even aware that scallops were also farm-raised. We strive to support the local farmer, and in our area, that includes supporting our local fisherman. Without them, it will be increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy diet.

Studying the seafood industry has been an eye-opening and educational experience. One would think, living in New England, those items would be plentiful, easily-found. Even at the local fish monger’s shop, which gives the illusion of fresh off-the-boat, I find I have to ask what the “country of origin”. Quite often, it’s Canadian, and more times than not, farm-raised. Strolling the fish counter in stores, one might be lead to have an impression that that we live in a time of great and wondrous bounty. There’s no shortage of choices available year-round to fulfill the desire for any number of tasty seafood items – paella with a tasty sofrito base, bouillabaisse, or my favorite when in the San Francisco area, cioppino – but again, the majority are farm-raised. The wild-caught traditional fishing industry has many regulations, some of them greatly needed for conservation, of diminishing resources, while others are spurious and onerous threatening the livelihood of thousands. We risk the demise of an entire industry.

Some argue farm-raised seafood is the answer from both a conservation standpoint and meeting consumer needs. I’d like to have believed the same wild-product could have been generated through farm-production, but report after report discourages that notion. Yet again, farm-raised does not offer an acceptable alternative as farm-raised seafood has HIGHER toxin levels than wild-caught. Additionally, farm-raised seafood isn’t fed a wild diet, instead, receiving palletized products “rich” in chemical nutrients which don’t metabolize well in humans. Grain-fed (corn and soy) farm-raised fish, don’t have the same healthy Omega6:Omega3 essential fatty acids as their wild-caught cousins, another nutritional disaster for creatures and humans alike.

Wild-caught seafood is not without its problems. Pollution runs rampant throughout our world, including our oceans. Toxins accumulate in the fat of seafood. Choices have to be made, and the struggle for us is deciding to not focus on finding toxin-free seafood, but rather, find seafood fished from waters known to contain less toxins. For some people, that means eating only small fish – anchovies and sardines, for example – that reproduce rapidly, are plentiful in supply, and have spent less time in the oceans being exposed to toxins.

There is no easy answer other than to have a varied diet, not consuming a steady diet of any one food, but rather, giving thanks for the blessings of having an occasional meal from the Real Thing – wild-caught seafood when available, preferably, from a local fishing source. In some land-locked central U.S. locations, “local” may mean seafood shipped in from one of the coastal fishing areas caught by U.S. fishermen. Cod liver oil and fish oil presents an option for obtaining very necessary Omega 6 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids in the correct balance, but again, the challenge is to find products that are produced from wild-caught vs. farm-raised fish. For those with Autism, winter doses of cod liver oil (provides necessary Vitamin D) and summer doses of fish oil (Vitamin D should be obtained during that time from the sun – it’s manufactured through our skin), is considered to be necessary for proper brain and nervous-system function support.

Attached is an interesting article on the dangers of eating farm-raised seafood products. Supposedly, Europe is far-advanced in farm-raised seafood techniques, so there may be hope for our American seafood farm-raised industry learning and improving our system. Until they can produce a product that offers the same benefits as wild-caught, however, we’ll stick to buying local from trusted sources of wild-caught product, and take our daily doses of cod or fish liver oil.


Consumer Reports
Seafood: Farmed vs. Wild

The FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of imported seafood. And there’s a lot of ensuring to do: About 80 percent of seafood sold in the U.S. is imported. Yet the FDA tests only about 2 percent of those imports, mainly for drug residues. In January 2004, the GAO reported that despite an earlier recommendation, the FDA had not established agreements with other countries to document that their seafood-safety systems are as stringent as the U.S. system.

Salmon are one of the major imports. They’re high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but their fat also tends to accumulate toxins consumed in the wild or on fish farms. In the wild, a salmon’s meal of choice is smaller fish. On farms, salmon are typically fed concentrated fish meal and fish oil.

Results of a study led by Ronald Hites, Ph.D., an environmental chemist at Indiana University, and published in the Oct. 1, 2004, issue of Environmental Science & Technology showed that farmed salmon tended to have higher levels of PBDEs, flame retardants used in polyurethane foam, than wild salmon. PBDEs have become ubiquitous in the environment and appear to have found their way into farmed-fish feed. They have posed neurological problems in animals; their toxicity in humans isn’t known.

The Hites team also reported in the journal Science in January 2004 that compared with wild salmon, farmed salmon had more PCBs and dioxins, likely carcinogens. On its own, each contaminant was well below the FDA’s tolerance level. But some samples had combined concentrations high enough to trigger local consumption advisories. The data indicated that farmed salmon from Europe were more contaminated than those from North and South America.

Two major international fish-feed producers, EWOS Ltd. of Norway and Nutreco Aquaculture of the Netherlands, test their feed for contaminants, and spokesmen say they’ve taken steps to reduce levels of PCBs and dioxins. Nutreco Aquaculture, for example, has increased the substitution of vegetable oil for fish oil, says Viggo Halseth, managing director of the company’s research center.

The FDA is concerned, however, that some foreign fish and seafood producers are adding unapproved drugs to feed, leaving traces in food that could pose human health risks. Since 2003, foreign shipments of farmed salmon reportedly tainted with malachite green, a fungicide not approved for aquaculture use in the U.S., have been stopped in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, according to press reports. This fiscal year, the FDA plans to test catfish – 80 samples of domestic, 80 of imported – for malachite-green residues. Tests from fiscal years 2001-03 have found no residues. Plans to test salmon are on hold, an FDA spokeswoman says, while the agency assesses detection methods.

Chloramphenicol, a potent antibiotic and suspected carcinogen, is another cause for concern. Although federal regulations prohibit its use in animal feed, chloramphenicol has been found in shrimp imported to the U.S. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry began testing imported shrimp in 2002. Ten percent of its samples to date have been tainted with the drug.

This and other incidents here and abroad led the FDA to announce increased testing of imported seafood for chloramphenicol. Currently, the agency collects just eight samples of imported shrimp each week, according to an FDA spokeswoman.

“We are concerned about chloramphenicol and malachite green and other veterinary drugs that are not allowed in the United States because there are serious health concerns,” says Stephen Sundlof at the FDA. The agency is trying to work with other countries to help them resolve problems with medications unapproved in the U.S., he adds.

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